Category Archives: Gadgetry

OSIM 2009

Yesterday I spoke at Open Source in Mobile USA 2009 (OSiM) . The theme of my talk was really that that web’s the platform of choice in mobile, and that it distills the riotous assembly of choices for mobile development (J2ME, Java SE. BREW, Objective C, to name a few) to web development in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Device APIs are thus really web APIs exposed to JavaScript; Geolocation is currently the prime use case. I also discussed our unique Mozilla modus operandi, which is often an exercise in structured, beautifully productive chaos.

Of course, mobile Firefox (Fennec) isn’t available on many devices, and we’ve got a lot of work left to realize the vision of the web being the platform of choice on mobile. How will that manifest itself? I got plenty of questions about WebKit vs. Firefox, and ease of use of each codebase for mobile projects. Mozilla’s platform (including XUL, extensions, and XPCOM) stands as a sometimes weighty alternative to WebKit, but people love the platform with its extensibility, and that’s where the promise lies. This theme will make a brief reappearance (amongst other themes) in my panel on March 16 at SxSW 2009, in which I’m sticking a Chrome guy, a Microsoft guy, an Opera guy, and a Mozilla guy together for a panel discussion on where the web is going.

Here’s my talk at OSiM 2009, available as a PDF file:


Jim Ley invited me in Boston to check out Joost as an alpha-tester. Joost is the startup formerly referred to as The Venice Project (and also known affectionately as The Covenant in W3C circles). The guys who started Skype and Kazaa are behind it. They’ve hired some really smart SVG brains, among others.

While playing with it, I think I had a vague “aha!” moment about social media as television. Sure, there are bandwidth issues (insert net neutrality snide remark), but the Joost guys figure they’ve solved affiliated compression problems.

One of the things I like is that each channel has its own chat room, and you get plugins like instant messaging in full screen mode. I wonder where all the content will come from, since this is not about user-generated content. Content is a bit limited (how much of the surf video can you watch?) but I got really engrossed in an independent movie and started watching it. Before I knew it, a whopping hour had passed. Just like vegging out in front of the (regular) TV! I haven’t (yet) found a sufficient community to test out the plugins like chatting and ratings, but the left-over insight following my “aha!” moment suggests that there is, indeed, a “There there.”

I like the slick SVG menus that overlay the video when it is playing. I read somewhere that these guys use XUL Runner, apparently, and leverage a pretty diverse open source stack. I really like the fact that despite user-agent foibles, the Joost (Yoost?) folks make use of the most appropriate technology. That’s in keeping with my view that many of the most interesting things on the Web will likely be the sum of small parts, and not an immersive user agent experience. That is, Web technologies (protocols — HTTP — and formats — e.g. SVG) will be leveraged where they make the most sense, cobbled into application-driven user agents (not classic “Web browsers”). I think this is particularly true in the mobile world, and said so in my Mobile 2.0 presentation.

I was informed by the write-up on Joost.

What Happens In Vegas…

I guess the key to really experience the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is to get a pass to a bling-bling after party, thrown by a well-known company in some hard-to-get-into sort of place (ropes, bouncers, and the like). Me, I was just lowly convention hall scum, intrepidly seeking tchotchkes while asking questions of the knowledgeable exhibitors.

This year’s CES was just about the biggest massing of humans and electromagnetic radiation that I’ve ever been privy to. Taking the shuttle bus between the various exhibits was a maddening experience; I’d frequently find myself on a shuttle bus between two venues with a semi-hostile driver and confused patrons of technology in Vegas traffic jams.

But, whining and self-deprecation aside, I found a few things in Vegas to write home about.

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